1. APRESENTAÇÃO DO AUTOR E DA OBRA
Entre 1949 e 1957 foi diretor da Divisão de Desenvolvimento da Cepal (Comissão Econômica para a América Latina), agência das Nações Unidas, em Santiago do Chile. Foi o primeiro ministro do Planejamento da história do país (1962-64), pasta que assumiu durante o governo de João Goulart (1961-64). Com o golpe de 1964 foi cassado e exilado. Foi professor de universidades nos EUA (Yale, Harvard e Columbia), na Inglaterra (Cambridge) e França (Sorbonne), onde foi nomeado professor por decreto do presidente francês Charles de Gaulle. Após a anistia, em 1979, voltou ao Brasil e, em 1986, assumiu o ministério da Cultura no governo José Sarney (1985-90). Em 1997 foi eleito para a Academia Brasileira de Letras e, em 2003 foi eleito para a Academia Brasileira de Ciências. Era doutor Honoris Causa pela Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (Portugal), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (São Paulo), Universidade Nacional de Brasília, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Université Pierre Mendès-France (Grenoble, França), Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Universidade Estadual Paulista e Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
My intellectual development unfolded under a triple influence. At the beginning, I was seduced by positivism, the idea that science generates knowledge in its most noble form. It was not a primitive Compteanism, but instead a confidence in experimental science as a tool to discover the secrets of nature.
Subsequently the influence of Marx was felt, by means of Karl Mannheim, the author of the sociology of knowledge, which referred scientific understanding to its social context. That was the starting point for my interest in history as an object of study.
The third current of thought that influenced me was U.S. sociology, by way of Gilberto Freyre. The Masters and the Slaves (2) opened the cultural dimension of historical processes to me. This contact with North American sociology corrected the excesses of my historicism.
I consider it important that my approach to Marxism was accomplished through the sociology of knowledge. When I read Capital in a Marxism course that I took after the war at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, I already knew enough modern macroeconomics so as not to be seduced by
an economic determinism which provided an explanation for everything by means of a simplification of the world.
THE RESEARCHER'S ROLE
The motivations of the investigator are numerous. The most fundamental, however, is confidence in one's own imagination - and knowledge of how to use it. That confidence translates into the conviction that it is possible to intuit a reality of which only one aspect is known, similar to what is done in paleontology. In this manner, the value of the researcher's work derives from the mixture of two ingredients: imagination, and courage to take risks in an uncertain search. The former leads me to the following assertion: science is conducted by those who are capable of exceeding the fixed limits now imposed by the university world. The tendency there for "canned products" to predominate characterizes the basis of academic knowledge. Due to reasons not to be pursued here, many persons of talent become frustrated in the university environment.
I very quickly noticed that, if I dared use imagination, I would enter into conflict with the establishment of today's economic wise men. The alternative consisted in resigning oneself to reproducing the conventional, notably poor, wisdom, given our subordination in the area of scientific knowledge. It is not easy to explain that we had rebelled and begun to create out of our own imaginations. It was precisely that, which occurred in Latin America: we decided to identify our problems and elaborate their theoretic treatment. It was there, waiting to be captured, a Latin American and more particularly a Brazilian historical reality. The emergence of CEPAL (3) during the first postwar years, allowed our self-confidence to take a corresponding leap.
Yet it is not enough to assemble efficacious tools. To act consistently in the political terrain, that is, to assume responsibility for intervening in the historical process, one must make ethical commitments. Science is a dazzling human creation, but to a large extent it is conditioned by the society in which it emerges. The fact that in the 19th century very elaborate theories surfaced concerning racial differences is not totally divorced from the political expansion of some European nations. The social sciences help mankind to resolve practical problems of different types, but they also contribute to imposing the image of the world that prevails in a given society. In this way, they serve to ground the system of domination that they themselves legitimate. Therefore, it is natural that the structures of power try to co-opt the men of science and that the control of the direction of research should be the object of so many controversies.
When I began my theoretical work, it was being thoroughly debated whether the politics of industrialization should be favored. Expressed in today's language: what are the best policies for development? Should an industrial policy be adopted or everything be confided to the market? The answer to these questions is not independent from identification of the social forces that control strategic economic decisions. During the first postwar years, the dominant social forces in Brazil were linked to the rural interests and to those of external trade. Yet the germ of an industrial nucleus already existed, circumscribed to certain areas only. I soon realized that the project of the nation's modernization would have to find support among those forces.
My long life journey has thus been oriented by two principal reference points: the ethical acceptance of universal values, which transcend every form of parochialism, and confidence in the leadership of social forces whose interests correspond to those of the national collectivity.